A Swarm Of The Sun – The Woods


It has been three years since Scandinavian-based duo A Swarm Of The Sun released the critically acclaimed album The Rifts. The time taken between records serves them well, with each release being more absorbing than its predecessor. The Woods (both self-released/Version Studio) is no exception, taking the band down a distinctly bleaker path, with a slow and menacing atmosphere that evokes a sense of unease akin to the feeling being watched by something unseen and malevolent.Continue reading


Weltesser – Crestfallen


We all listen to metal – and music generally – for different reasons. If you like to be taken on a slow, sonically abusive downward spiral into depression, ­­­­Weltesser’s Crestfallen (Prosthetic) is the perfect material. The Florida trio’s self-produced debut album is six tracks and 30 minutes of bleak, grim doom.Continue reading


Bleak – Bleak EP


a3829693335_10

Given the uncompromising starkness of their moniker, which makes any kind of internet research on them an exercise in frustration, it’s fairly safe to assume that Syracuse, NY quartet Bleak isn’t here to make friends and win fans. According to their FB page (which can be found with effort) “The only thing we hate more than ourselves is you” and after giving their debut, self-titled EP (Blasphemour) a listen, you’d be hard pressed to disagree.

Playing a hard-hitting form of groove metal that rarely gets above mid-pace, the band also draw elements from sludge and hardcore to produce a sound that will knock you on your arse. Quite simply, wimps and poseurs need not apply. Kicking things off with the savage groove of ‘Bridge Burner’ which roils and pummels like Vision of Disorder if someone had murdered their families, the band proceed to inflict a serious of devastating body blows over the course of eighteen punishing minutes. However, they’re not afraid to take risks, as the harrowing dark ambient of second track ‘Resplendent Repression’ emphatically proves.

The short, sharp shock of ‘Simple’ employs skittish mathcore anti-melodies amid its lurching chugs, coming across like a looser Ion Dissonance while the crushing beatdowns and feral roars of ‘Outflanked’ is some of the nastiest hardcore you are ever likely to hear.

What Bleak do isn’t big or clever and it certainly isn’t that original, but their uncompromising nihilistic approach and straightforward, bloody-minded aggression is refreshingly honest. They sound like they would beat you to within an inch of your life for no reason and in a scene full of chancers who like to talk big, Bleak are well primed to make a name for themselves.

8.0/10

Bleak on Facebook

JAMES CONWAY


An Autumn For Crippled Children – The Long Goodbye


a1419290082_10

An Autumn For Crippled Children have a very credible reputation, one of almost unreserved critical acclaim gained over the four albums that precede The Long Goodbye (Wicker Man), four albums that have established the Dutch post-black metal band as able to combine prolificacy and class in rare measure, and a band whose raison d’etre is in the beautifully dark and melancholic.

And release seven (in six years, for they have also produced two EPs) will continue that reputation, and starts by snapping the head of the listener to attention with a deformed upbeat Death Rock opening trio that fuse goth-punk, black metal jangle and profound Cascadian melodies. Like a permeating disease, the white noise of distortion sits like an ethereal fog atop the bleak atmospheric music playing beneath its influence, as the dance beneath slows from the Death Rock four-step of the first three songs to a statuesque stall of reflection which subdues the mood.

Whether that is the right play or not depends on whether you’re prepared to accept The Long Goodbye for what it is, rather than what you thought it was going to do, or indeed what you wanted it to do. After the unexpected and pleasing opening, the expected combination of black metal shuffle and despondent atmospheres takes over from ‘When Night Leaves Again’.

Taking it for how it plays out, The Long Goodbye proceeds to unveil post-Black Metal dejection, with songs like ‘Endless Skies’ that segue from gentle mood pieces into evocative and epic movements, before recalling some of the simple touches that impressed from the outset towards the tail, with ‘Gleam’ an expansive story splashed with flickers of Americana that explodes , contradictorily, into an uplifting yet sad beauty in the manner of a Deafheaven.

As mentioned at the outset, An Autumn For Crippled Children have a strong reputation that they’ve cultivated and maintained at every step of their existence. The Long Goodbye will only serve to enhance that standing, with the exploration of death rock, alongside their usual despondency and delicate post-Black metal, adding a welcome vibrancy and impetus.

8.0/10

An Autumn For Crippled Children on Facebook

STEVE TOVEY


36 Crazyfists – Time and Trauma


10155607_10152754947334830_4682106299477867681_n

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. The thing is, “they” also say eating bread crusts makes your chest hair grow curly and that going to sleep with wet hair gives you a cold. “They” can talk a load of bollocks at times. Sometimes absence makes you think “Oh, I’d forgotten about them”, “I thought they’d split up” or even “well, I hadn’t actually missed them at all”. So, while 36 Crazyfists aren’t quite starting from scratch with Time and Trauma (Spinefarm), their first album since 2010’s Collisions and Castaways (Ferret/Roadrunner), they do have a little bit of re-establishing to do as it is now thirteen years since their defining moment, debut Bitterness The Star (Roadrunner).

The first thing to notice is, that while it would be churlish to say there’s a reduction in aggression as the Alaskan quartet were never about being heavy bruisers, Time and Trauma moves their trademarks more into the alternative metal ballpark, focused on building dynamic atmospheres rather than the quick win thrash-holler-beatdown formulas of many of their contemporaries, giving room for mainstay vocalist Brock Lindow to seek powerful melodies and create a more expansive universe for the Crazyfists. Lindow has always been a divisive figure in my mind, distinctive – which is always a bonus – and capable of creating the choruses that others may not think of, but at the same time over-reliant on an idiosyncrasy that doesn’t always enhance, with his warble grating as often as it augments.

There is an interesting dynamic to Time and Trauma in that this is an album that aurally grows and develops as it progresses, with the depth and quality of tune, in the main, saved for the second half. Most bands frontload with singles in the hope to build up enough brownie points in the opening exchanges to win the plaudits and the affections of their faithful, however 36 Crazyfists are confident in their material and happy to display a maturity that suits them, a darker churn to their sound that stands them in good stead.

There may be touches of Drowning Pool (‘Also Am I’) and the odd ‘Grind’ of Alice In Chains (the title track) but the over-riding feature seems to be that this, the sixth Crazyfist release, is the album that sees them explore their inner Deftones, expanding and lurching this added influence into their sound, culminating in the interesting penultimate track, ‘Gathering Bones’. That said, it is only on the closing, harrowing ‘Marrow’ that the band unveil a truly great song with a chilling, spiraling bleak melancholia that sees a great female vocal guest performance (and shame on the band for making it so hard to find out who it is).

As far as comebacks go, they may be aiming for “swinging for the fences again”, as Lindow declares again in the press statement, but Time and Trauma only sees them round second, falling short of a home run. A decent effort that will be a welcome addition to the collections of those who are already on-board and that, despite the added exploration of the dark and the Deftones, is unlikely to convince those who don’t already walk the world of the 36 Crazyfists.

7.0/10

36 Crazyfists on Facebook

STEVE TOVEY


Rippikoulu – Musta Seremonia


rippikoulu-musta_seremonia1 album cover

Does the “underground” really exist anymore? Most Metal fans over thirty will remember some albums being difficult – in some cases nearly impossible – to track down, but these days the most obscure and veiled albums can be heard online without any real issues. Even the arcane releases of the past are being dragged out of the underground and hauled into the light – a case in point being this ’93 demo from a Finnish Black Metal band so fourth-tier that if you’ve heard of them before you were probably in the band. Finnish Death Metal is often characterised by a crushing Doom-flavoured approach and a preference for suffocating atmospheres over catchy riffs. Rippikoulu (apparently the first DM band to sing in Finnish, which is interesting if not terribly useful for pub quizzes) certainly didn’t buck this trend, the six tracks of Musta Seremonia (Svart Records) consisting of crushing slow-motion riffing, drawn out song structures and an atmosphere of utter bleakness.

 

For a near-unknown demo one year off its twentieth birthday, Musta Seremonia holds together surprisingly well, with a thick sound and merciless song-structures that at times creates a genuinely stifling feel. This is ugly music, as far as one could get from the thrashy-riffing and audible growled choruses that often pass for “old school Death Metal”. Some of the songs are longer than they need to be, but that’s entirely consistent with the atmosphere of prolonged suffering they build up. The same could be said for the lack of variety and generally one-note nature of the composition.

 

No, the biggest issue is, of course, the question of what it has to offer for a new listener now. A lot of bands have played this style of crushing Doom/Death in the twenty years since Musta Seremonia was recorded, and some of them have developed and progressed it further. There’s nothing on here that will be new people who are already familiar with the style, and the overbearing bleakness may not make it the best introduction for the curious, but for what it is Musta Seremonia is pretty hard to find flaw with. Rippi Koulu, Motherfuckers! I’m sorry. 7.0/10.0 Rippikoulu on Facebook RICHIE H-R


Wolvhammer – Clawing Into Black Sun


wolvhammer-clawing album cover

 

It’s not often you find a black metal album you can dance to, but Wolvhammer seem to have produced a sound that does just that. Mixing up doses of black metal with rock sensibilities their music is both dissonant and hooky, meandering into post-metal territories on occasion. The different genres are blended seamlessly, forming an entity where each style is equal and nothing dominates the other.

 

Following on from 2011’s sophomore album, The Obsidian Plains, Clawing into Black Sun (both Profound Lore) may not be a change in style, but it is certainly a completely different beast. It lacks some of the raw aggression that was present in The Obsidian Plains, opting for a more refined approach to the style. The music centers much more heavily around the riffs, downplaying some of the heavy black metal influence from the previous release. The biggest difference however can be found in the vocals, losing some of the raw and harrowing edge.

 

While ‘Death Division’ and ‘The Desanctification’ drip with hatred, ‘Silver Key’ and title track ‘Clawing into Black Sun’ strip back the bleakness, replacing it with more groove-based riffing. Coming in at almost nine minutes long, it is the longest song and really stands out an album underpinned by a melodic edge where many of the tracks charge between rage and refinement. ‘A Light That Doesn’t Yield’ is a dark introspective; its’ melodies poignant and captivating backed by slow-moving harmonies underneath.

Wolvhammer have once again crafted an eloquent and addictive album evolving out the sound of previous work. While it lacks the sheer torment that Obsidian Plains encapsulated, for those that like their black metal polished, buffed and refined, this makes an essential addition to the record collection.

Wolvhammer band photos

8.0/10.0

Wolvhammer on Facebook

 

CAITLIN SMITH